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Rahul Gandhi signals intent to unite Oppostion against BJP

The Congress president said in the next election BJP will be on one side and the entire Opposition on the other.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2018 23:35 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Rahul Gandhi,Bharatiya Janata Party,Opposition parties
Congress president Rahul Gandhi speaks at an interactive session at London School of Economics, London on August 24.(PTI Photo)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday signalled his intent to work with other Opposition parties to put up a joint fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), announcing at an event that the party was working on a manifesto at national and local levels. He said the Congress was speaking to various stakeholders and would go to the people with what he called a “common minimum structure” with other parties.

“The next election is going to be pretty straightforward: BJP on one side and the entire Opposition on the other. The reason for that is that almost everybody in the Opposition and also members of the BJP alliance feel the encroachment that is taking place of Indian institutions, the systematic attack taking place on Indian institutions,” Gandhi said at an interaction with LSE academics and students.

Even as he was applauded for what some in the audience called an “unscripted mann ki baat” over 70 minutes, Gandhi said, “There is this mood that we need to defend the institutions, we need to defend the idea of one man one vote, we need to defend the inclusive idea of India.”

Read: Rahul Gandhi plays down prime ministerial ambitions, says he is ‘defending Indian state’

In this regard, he mentioned some judges of the Supreme Court taking the unprecedented step in January of addressing a press conference to allege that they were “not being allowed to do our work”, and the example of a journalist removed for doing a programme on farmers in Chhattisgarh.

“You will have a clear-cut election where pretty much everybody will be on this side and the BJP-RSS on the other side, and once that comes into play, you can look at UP and Bihar alliances and the central focus areas become very difficult for the BJP to win,” Gandhi added.

Later, addressing the Indian Journalists Association (established in May 1947), Gandhi responded to a range of questions, reiterating his comparison of RSS with the Muslim Brotherhood. He quipped that Modi can’t take questions from people. “He won’t be able to sit here. I have the guts,” he said.

Calling the job crisis in India as ‘devastating’, Gandhi said: “The people who support Modi and other populist leaders are doing so because they are angry. They are angry because they don’t have a job”.

Noting the controversy caused in India over his comparison of RSS with the Muslim Brotherhood, Gandhi sought to further the charge by recounting alleged similarities between the two organisations. He also accused Modi and BJP leaders of “being lenient” with financial fugitives such as Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.

“Before leaving (India), Mallya met BJP leaders. They are lenient with these people. Modi has relations with Choksi. The prime minister let him go”, Gandhi alleged, adding to the catalogue of alleged failures of Modi and his government he listed during his two-day visit here.

After meeting journalists at the IJA event, Gandhi met doctors of Indian origin and later delivered an address to the Indian diaspora at an event organised by the Indian Overseas Congress UK in the evening.

The Congress president had said on Friday that “Congress was not involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots”, in which nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed, mostly in the national capital when the party’s government was in power at the Centre.

To a question by CNN-News18 at an event in the UK Parliament about the 1984 riots, Gandhi said: “I have no confusion in my mind about that. It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don’t agree with that. Certainly there was violence, certainly there was tragedy.”

Later, during an interactive session at the London School of Economics (LSE) when he was again asked about the anti-Sikh riots and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement on it, Gandhi said: “When Manmohan Singh spoke, he spoke for all of us. As I said earlier, I am a victim of violence and I understand what it feels.”

Read: Modi is unpatriotic, uses anger of jobless youth to damage India, says Rahul Gandhi

First Published: Aug 25, 2018 23:35 IST